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Deadline looms for suit over Duncan’s release

Thu., March 16, 2006

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – A deadline for serving Becker County with a lawsuit over the release of accused kidnapper and killer Joseph E. Duncan III is approaching, but the county hasn’t received the paperwork.

Jon Iverson, a lawyer for the county, said Tuesday that it was unusual the county hadn’t been served and that he had “never seen anything like it.”

Russell Van Camp of Spokane, one of the lawyers suing the county for unspecified damages on behalf of the estates of Brenda Kay Groene and Mark Edward McKenzie, said they would make the April 4 deadline.

“We’re charging on down the road,” Van Camp said. “They will be served immediately.”

Van Camp and his partner, Dustin Deissner, filed the case Dec. 5 in U.S. District Court in Idaho against Becker County and Duncan. The lawsuit claims the county and Duncan share responsibility for the deaths of Groene, her son and McKenzie last May at their home near Coeur d’Alene.

The lawsuit claims that county Judge Thomas Schroeder set Duncan’s bail too low on an unrelated child molestation charge and that the county failed to supervise him adequately once he posted the $15,000 bail.

Van Camp said lawyers have been waiting to serve the county because Duncan is awaiting trial on murder and kidnapping charges and has the right not to incriminate himself.

Iverson said he would ask that the county be dismissed from the lawsuit because prosecutors and judges are immune from claims when they are acting within the discretion of their jobs.

Duncan, a Tacoma native, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in Idaho for the bludgeoning deaths of Groene, McKenzie and 13-year-old Slade Groene. Eight-year-old Shasta Kay Groene and her brother 9-year-old Dylan James Groene were missing for seven weeks until Duncan was spotted with the girl at a Denny’s restaurant in Coeur d’Alene. The boy was later found dead.

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